Rotterdam is situated on the New Meuse (Nieuwe Maas) River in the south of the Netherlands, just under 20 miles (30 km) from the North Sea, with the New Waterway canal connecting it to the coast.
The city entered the history books in 1283 when the land it was built on was reclaimed from the mouth of the Rotte river, and a fishing village was established. Rotterdam was chartered in 1328. Following the construction of a canal to the Schie, which was like the Rotte, a tributary of the New Meuse, the town became the major port of the region.
The seventeenth century was something of a golden age for the city, as it basked in the prosperity brought to the Netherlands via the newly discovered trade route to the Indies. Rotterdam’s harbours and residential area underwent considerable expansion during this era, and as the eighteenth century dawned the city was second only to Amsterdam as a commercial and financial centre.
After the cessation of international trade during the French occupation of the Netherlands, Rotterdam began the process of re-establishing itself as a leading merchant city. In order to facilitate this process the New Waterway Canal was built. It was sufficiently large to carry ocean-going steamships, and was completed in 1872. After a series of further improvements, including the development of a rail connection with the southern Netherlands and the construction of a bridge across the Meuse, Rotterdam became the largest dredged harbour in the world.
Constant bombardment and German occupation during World War II brought chaos to the city and destroyed much of its port, and many of its older public buildings. The fifteenth century St Lawrence’s church fell victim to Nazi artillery but was painstakingly restored after the war by the resilient locals. The rest of the city lay in ruins, but the result of this calamity was to inspire a new generation of Dutch architects to reinvent the centre. A completely different new inner city was planned and developed.
Unlike many other attempts at post-war reconstruction, Rotterdam’s spacious and modern centre has attracted widespread admiration from professionals and tourists. Despite this architectural change, the port remains the hub of Rotterdam’s economy. It is the world’s most important oil terminals; there are 5 major oil refineries located within its boundaries and the city’s petrochemical industry is highly important to sustaining its success. Given the sheer volume of cargo that passes through it each year Rotterdam remains one of the busiest and largest harbours in the world. It is also well served by road and rail networks and there is an airport–Zestienhoven–to the northwest of the city. Rotterdam was made one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2001.
Places of Interest
Sites of cultural interest include the rebuilt St Lawrence’s church with its statue of one of Rotterdam’s most famous former inhabitants - Erasmus, De Doelen concert hall which is celebrated for the quality of its acoustics, and the Boymans-van Beuningen museum which houses a fine collection of Dutch and Flemish masterpieces. The Royal Rotterdam Zoological Garden Foundation is a renowned and popular zoo.